(Continuing the voyage down the Rhône valley this week, to catch up with vigneron friends and get an insight into the Rhône 2009 vintage).

Domaine Jean-Louis Chave is a key reference point for the entire Rhône valley, and securing an audience with Jean-Louis himself is never easy. Space precludes going into too much detail here, but the red Chave Hermitage 2009 has the potential to be a legendary wine and on the strength of our cask tasting I would be surprised if Jean-Louis did not produce a bottling of his prized Cuvée Cathelin. All of the components that are required for a classic, age-worthy red Hermitage are here – a wealth of dark fruit flavours and well-structured tannins underscored by a fine acidity. The finished wine won’t hit these shores until Spring 2012, but it will be worth the wait. Not to be overlooked is the Chave’s peerless white Hermitage which should also be ‘bien classique’ in this impressive vintage.

Just South of Tain l’Hermitage, at Les Chenes Verts, young Maxime Graillot exudes confidence at the purpose-built winery he shares with his semi-retired father Alain. Their red Crozes Hermitage is juicy and fruity and will provide rewarding drinking from the off. A new negoçiant cuvée of Cornas called ‘Equis’ was hugely impressive with a core of dark Cassis fruit over a foundation of ripe, subtle tannins. We wound up a great day’s tasting with the Graillots’ fresh, youthful white Crozes (20% Marsanne / 80% Roussanne) already bottled under screw cap and selling rapidly.

Tomorrow we head south for Châteauneuf-du-Pape to see if the wines of the Cotes-du-Rhone Meridional can compete with their cousins in the North.

À demain (hotel wi-fi permitting),

Jason & Tom